Campaigning for our public services and those that provide them

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2015 National Delegate Conference
23 February 2015
Carried as Amended

Conference notes the decisive role that UNISON must continue to play in campaigning for effective public services that embody the values of a good society – care and compassion, dignity and respect, fairness and equal treatment, accountability and the public good.

Conference further notes that the context in which we must campaign is characterised by significant structural challenges to public services. These include meeting increasing demand for care and new treatments, meeting the costs of technological and medical advances and addressing the needs of an ageing population. But Conference is deeply concerned that whilst these challenges are formidable enough in their own terms, the real debate about how the NHS, local government and other public services face up to new demands is being obscured by continued government obsession with spending cuts – even though austerity has clearly been self defeating, decimating the services that we rely upon and failing to restore the public finances.

In early 2015 the consequences of this policy are all too visible, as we see:

1)A crisis situation across the NHS, where patients are being denied services or are experiencing critical delays, not only in the acute sector, resulting from a mixture of cuts and Tory led reforms;

2)A significant cut in the number of vulnerable people, many of them elderly, receiving council funded care;

3)Huge difficulties for public services in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as a consequence of reduced funding from Westminster;

4)A National Audit Office report suggesting that half of all councils in England are at risk of financial failure over the next five years;

5)Hundreds of thousands more job losses being predicted across public services in the period up to 2020;

6)Continued outsourcing and privatisation, despite evidence that this is costly and harmful to services;

7)Increasing demands on dedicated public sector staff as a result of an unacceptable squeeze on their pay and conditions and increase in underpaid overtime.

Whatever the result of the General Election this union will continue to campaign for publicly owned, accountable public services provided by public sector employees as the best guarantee of quality, efficiency and value for money. We will need to assess how to take forward this campaign work in the light of the election result and will liaise with regions and branches on our approach, assessing the challenges and threats.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to:

a)Highlight the consequences for our public services of continued austerity and the impact of cuts on public life;

b)Engage service users, the workforce and our communities in a public debate about policy alternatives to austerity;

c)Continue to challenge the dogma of outsourcing and privatisation, highlighting the cost to the exchequer of such schemes, and pressing the case for an alternative procurement strategy incorporating economic, social quality and sustainability criteria;

d)Set out the case for public spending, exploring the social and economic role that public spending plays;

e)Continue to set out the case for decent employment practices and fair pay in the public sector;

f)Build a vision for public services that shows them to be accountable, collaborative and based on equality and universal access, including in the context of proposals for regional governance;

g)Work through Labour Link and the General Political Fund to campaign and lobby politicians for positive measures to ensure that public services are sufficiently funded to meet the challenges ahead whilst upholding values of collectivism and social solidarity;

h)Work with UNISON regions in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales on influencing, using the political funds, the 2016 Scottish Parliament, Northern Ireland Assembly and Wales Assembly elections.